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Tennessee parish responds to immigration raid with support, prayer

Knoxville, Tenn., Jun 25, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The April day nearly 100 workers were taken into custody in the country’s largest worksite immigration raid in a decade, St. Patrick’s parish center in Morristown, Tenn. opened to the community and donations started pouring in.

The parish center stayed open until 3 a.m. the night of April 5. Husbands, wives and children gathered together, trying to find out what had happened to their relatives and community members, waiting as 43 of the 97 people in custody were eventually released back to their families.

In the days following, donations of food, clothing, toiletries, and money poured in to the parish.

“We had a lot, I mean a surplus of things. We were running out of room, we had to move things down to the [church] basement,” Veronica Galvan told CNA.

The director of religious education at St. Patrick and a resident of Morristown for 23 years, Galvan was well-known in the community, located about 45 miles northeast of Knoxville, and the first to ask the pastor, Fr. Patrick Brownell, to open the church the day of the raid.

“I just went ahead and told people to go there if they didn't feel safe at home or work,” she said. “They expressed that fear and I wanted to make sure that was taken care of and they could feel safe somewhere. So we opened up the doors to whoever wanted to come.”

For the first two weeks the center “was crazy,” she said. Every day, more than 200 people who had been affected, either directly or indirectly, gathered at the parish. More than 100 volunteers came and went throughout the day from around the wider community, including lawyers, doctors, priests, and other religious ministers.

Three religious sisters originally from Mexico also came to help and to pray with people, Fr. Brownell said.

Quickly, they ran out of space for physical items and had to ask people to give only money. In most of the cases, those in police custody following the raid were the primary or only breadwinners of their families, and people needed help just to continue to pay their bills.

Galvan said with the money they received they paid the families’ bills for two months. With the more than $50,000 received through a GoFundMe campaign set up by local Hispanic and Latino aid group H.O.L.A. Lakeway, $1,000 was given to each worker to go toward their bond.

A prayer vigil was held in the community April 9 and Fr. Brownell has left the church accessible at night via a door code, so that if anyone wants to go the church to pray at night they can.

Now, two and half months later, things feel like they have returned to normal, St. Patrick’s youth ministry coordinator, Colleen Jacobs, told CNA: “I think there is some good to that, but as a community I think we should still feel more outrage than we do right now. I myself feel like, should I be doing something? What should I be doing right now?”

As of June 13, 35 of the 54 people taken out of state and held in an immigration detention facility have been released on bond and are back with their families.

But as they await court dates and a lengthy legal process which could result in deportation, they are not legally allowed to work or drive. And the money the community and St. Patrick's raised has run out.

This is one of the purposes of a weekly meeting still taking place at the church. A group of those affected created the meeting for additional support and training on things like driving and paying bills, for those who had relied on detained family members for these tasks.

Other organizations, including Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, are working to ensure workers have access to legal counsel and help with their court cases.

Though it is unknown exactly whom taken in the raid was a member of St. Patrick and St. John Paul II mission church in nearby Rutledge (names are kept as private as possible for security), there were certainly Catholics among them, Fr. Alex Waraksa said.

The assisting priest for Hispanic ministry in Morristown, who also assists at four other area churches, he was present to speak with people at the parish center following the raid.

It was “a place to be during the day and get different types of support,” including prayer, he said.

In some cases, church records on sacraments can help workers in their legal case because it provides a record of the depth and length of their ties to the community, Waraksa said. Unfortunately, there have been godparents and parents who, detained, have missed seeing their children receive the sacraments.

St. Patrick has tried to reach out to youth, too, following the raid. Wednesdays the church hosts youth nights for middle and high schoolers, with usual attendance at about 160 students, about half Hispanic, half non-Hispanic, Jacobs said, noting that it is a lot for a town of not many Catholics.

Morristown's population is around 30,000,  with around 900 families attending St. Patrick, though Waraksa said some families may bounce among the areas’ Catholic churches for Mass.

Jacobs was nervous that the students would not show up for youth group the week following the raid, though. The fear had been so strong the first few days afterward, not only did many people not go to work, Fr. Waraksa said, 500-600 students didn’t show up at school.

Regardless, Jacobs and others worked with a community organizer from a neighboring town to host an evening on community activism and how to enact change.

That night not only did most of the students show up, the usual 30-40 adult leaders were accompanied by another 35-40 counselors from the local schools and healthcare systems.

“The youth could see that there was an outpouring of love from all the adults, from all different types of organizations across the community,” Jacobs said, “so that was really powerful in itself.”

They created small groups that allowed the kids to talk about their feelings, and Jacobs noted the trauma not only for kids who had parents and other relatives taken, but also for the kids whose friends and classmates had been affected.

“It’s kind of hard to explain [the raid] to a kid when you’re trying to teach them the values of love of neighbor and... to accept people no matter their skin color, or what their background is, [and] then you have adults doing the exact opposite,” she said.

Though the overall responses from the churches in Morristown and Rutledge were positive, St. Patrick’s pastor, Fr. Brownell, said not all the voices were united on the issue.

He said if you take the non-Hispanic part of their community, “many of them are split down the center [on immigration], very much like the rest of the nation.” The criticism he heard was only from a small number of people, though those few were vocal, he noted.

Jacobs said she thinks prayer is important, and that it is something they are trying to let the kids know: “Even though we know what is going on isn’t right, we can do as much as we can and then remember to keep everyone in your prayers.”

“What the… fallout is going to be I don’t know, but it’s really, really tough.”

Unfortunately, the Morristown Hispanic community faced another tragedy, when two teens from Guatemala were found to have drowned in a local lake June 19. Fr. Brownell and other staff members of St. Patrick worked to help organize the joint funeral this week.

“Right now, I think the community is a bit numb, the Hispanic community,” Brownell said, “because they don't know where things are going.”

Most are with their families, “and that's a good thing. But I can only imagine that it’s a depressing situation... not knowing what the outcome will be... and there’s a good chance the outcome will be deportation. So it’s sort of biding time.”

Pope Francis: It's time to rediscover amazement, surprise, gratitude

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2018 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has said Christians should model the amazement, surprise and gratitude of Elizabeth and Zechariah - and their community - at the birth of their son, John.

“The whole event of the birth of John the Baptist is surrounded by a joyful sense of amazement, surprise and gratitude,” the Pope said in his weekly Angelus address in Rome.

“Looking at this, let us ask ourselves: how is my faith? Is it a joyful faith, or is it always the same faith, a ‘flat’ faith? Do I have a sense of amazement when I see the works of the Lord?”

Francis centered his Angelus on the solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist.

In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoice at the birth of their son, whom they name John. Elizabeth and Zechariah were past childbearing age, so their community was shocked and amazed by the miracle of John’s birth.

The pope said Elizabeth and Zechariah’s community “immediately understood that something great - although humble and private - had taken place.”

Pope Francis then reflected on the miracle of life. He said married couples act as collaborators of God when they have children; and every child has an imprint of God.

“[It is] a truly sublime mission that makes every family a sanctuary of life and awakens - at every birth of a child - joy amazement and gratitude.”

He also said the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah illustrates God is beyond our imagination.

“God does not depend on our logic and our limited human capacity,” the pope said.

“It is necessary to learn to trust and remain silent before the mystery of God and to contemplate in humility and silence his work, which reveals itself in history and which often surpasses our imagination.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis noted the June 23 beatification in Paraguay of the Carmelite nun Maria Felicia de Jesus Sacramentado. The 20th-century nun is remembered for her enthusiastic service of the elderly, sick and imprisoned. She died at the age of 34.

“Her witness is an invitation to all young people, especially those from Paraguay, to live their lives with generosity, gentleness and joy.”

Meet Sair Del Toro: Hispanic evangelist extraordinaire

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 24, 2018 / 12:15 pm (CNA).- If you ask Sair del Toro to tell you her story, she tells you the stories of other people. Women who have escaped abusive relationships. Gang members who have given their lives to Jesus. Teenagers who found healing after abortion.

She hardly mentions her role in those stories. But her role should not go unnoted. Those stories of conversion, or healing, or freedom, have one thing in common: Sair del Toro.

“I think when you give yourself freely to the Lord, beautiful graces and things come out, you can be a witness,” Del Toro told CNA.

Del Toro is director of Magnifica, the Spanish-language apostolate of Endow, a ministry that forms study and fellowship groups for women. She also hosts a daily radio show on Radio Guadalupe in Los Angeles, where she talks about theology, philosophy, Mary, the saints - “any subject.”

But Del Toro wasn’t always working for the Lord.

From wedding planner to bride of Christ

Although she grew up with a Catholic mother, Sair and her siblings withdrew from the faith. At one time she hated the Church, she said, because she was only paying attention to the bad news about it.

By the time she was 28, Del Toro was a well-known secular radio personality and wedding planner in Seattle, Washington. She drove a new Mercedes and had an apartment on the top floor with a view of the lake.

“Everything was perfect,” she said, “But I had something missing, I didn’t have love, I just had money. So every time that I was walking in my condominium I was like oh my God, I’m missing something.”

It was then that she started to ask God: “Where are you? Who are you?”

She started going back to church. Someone told her that if she wanted to find God, she should look to the Blessed Sacrament. So one day, she says she snuck into the adoration chapel to hug the tabernacle, wanting to see if God was really in “the little box.”

“I walked in there, I hugged Jesus Christ, and he came out and he hugged me. And I felt the presence of him in my heart and in my brain and in my soul - he was hugging me. It was the biggest hug of my life,” she said, and that love that she felt would forever change her life.

She left her high-paying job and swanky apartment and decided to join a convent in Omaha, Nebraska.

Del Toro’s mother was not so convinced of her quick conversion.

“My mom thought that I was crazy,” she said. So crazy, in fact, that she says her mother took her to be examined at a psychiatric hospital, which turned out to be run by nuns.

Del Toro said she was questioned by the doctor about whether she listened to God, heard his voice, loved him - questions she was afraid to answer honestly, if it meant she’d end up in a psych ward.

Still, she felt God urging her to tell the truth, so she responded - “Yes.” The doctor concluded that she wasn’t crazy - she was just in love with God.

After spending a few years in religious life, Del Toro felt God calling her to marriage. She left the convent and moved back to her home in Mexico, where she worked for several Catholic ministries, including the Mission for the Love of God, a ministry that aims to consecrate political leaders to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Over the course of three years, she says the ministry helped convince 75 percent of Mexico’s governors to consecrate themselves, their families and their work to Jesus.

“Most of the governors are secular, they’re totally opposite of what we do in the Catholic Church,” Del Toro said. “I used to somehow convince them to consecrate their work, family and all their soul to the Lord, which is crazy in Mexico because the majority of them are Masons.”

In 2013, Del Toro moved back to the United States to teach Theology of the Body to couples in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, before taking her current position with Magnifica.  

Converter of gang members

When Del Toro isn’t converting governors, she’s converting rooms full of hardened ex-gang members.

A few months ago, Del Toro was asked to give a presentation to a group in Houston - 200 people, mostly Hispanic men, who were hardened, tattooed ex-gang members and drug dealers.

“It’s very hard when you walk into a room like that,” Del Toro recalled. “I was thinking - ‘What is God going to do to me now?’”

She was scheduled to speak for two hours. She spoke for four - “because they needed more help than we were thinking.”  But by the end, she says, God had converted the room.

“We consecrated all of these people which was a miracle, because most of these people...have killed people, they were involved in very dirty and heavy business, they sold drugs, so for them to say yes to the Lord, it’s not like for you and for me, it’s a completely different thing,” she said.

“These people that we never thought would be consecrated to the Lord, they’re changing their lives and their families too,” she added. Del Toro said she looked for common ground with the ex-gang members, and told them that the hierarchy of the Church was much like the hierarchy of a gang - but on the side of the Lord rather than on the side of death and despair.

“So when you teach them how the church works, how God works, how the respect works, it’s actually the same thing but into the army of God,” she said.

“I’m telling them...your life is going to change, because you’re going to...be happier than ever, you’re going to be with the truth of grace, and you’re going to live forever. So they feel like they really have something now, they’re worth something...we give them the hope of life, of eternity,” she added.

Del Toro takes little credit for her own efforts - it’s the work of God, she says.

“I can’t convince them, that was God doing his work.”

Magnifica miracles

Del Toro says she gets a front-row seat to the work of God through her work with Magnifica. One woman, Rachel (whose name has been changed), approached Del Toro recently to tell her the story of her life.

When Rachel was just 14, she snuck out of her parents house to go to a party. That night, she was kidnapped and brought from Mexico City to the U.S. border, where she was sold to a man who kept her in captivity for 10 years.

Rachel had two little girls by her captor, and was never allowed outside. Eventually, a neighbor called the police, and Rachel and her daughters were rescued. She connected with Del Toro through her Theology of the Body classes, and is now finding help and healing in the Church through her Magnifica group.

“The beauty of this one is that they were never mad at anyone,” not even their captor, Del Toro recalled. “She’s always happy, always smiling, thanking God for everything.”

There are many other stories like this, of women like Rachel who have experienced domestic violence and don’t know where to turn until they start building trust with people like Del Toro. According to the National Latin@ (sic) Network, one in three Latinas have experienced domestic violence.

Another woman, Monica (whose name has been changed), approached Del Toro after meeting her through Magnifica.

Like Rachel, Monica had been kidnapped for several years by her ex-husband. He abused her and used her body to extinguish cigarettes; he also drove screws into her skin.

Although she was able to leave him, her second husband was also abusing her “almost every day,” recalled Del Toro. “Her body is completely destroyed, but you never see that because she’s always covered,” Del Toro said. “But every time that I think about her, I feel like she is like Jesus Christ, she was put...on that cross.”

Monica’s husband is now in jail, and she now works to help other women that she meets through Magnifica groups.

“She helps others with smaller problems without (talking about her past),” Del Toro said.

“She is absolutely amazing, and that’s when God shows you hope for humanity, because when you see someone in bad shape with that kind of problem, you’d think they would want nothing to do with God, but that’s not true,” she said. “These people want everything to do with God and they want to help others.”

“So there’s always hope out there,” she added, “and God through these programs has been giving us so much grace to help others without doing too much. He does his work and he does it well, so you just need to sit next to him and enjoy the miracles that he’s doing all around us in our Church.”

Del Toro said Magnifica groups have been specifically designed to meet the spiritual, and practical, needs of Hispanic women, especially those who are immigrants to the United States.

When she approaches Hispanic women about Magnifica, Del Toro first gets to know them, asking them about their families and their lives. Most women who begin attending Magnifica are looking for a community, she said. “We meet and read for an hour and a half and then we have food, we have a party, all of us together with the kids,” she said.

She also has to train her Magnifica facilitators to be prepared to help women who are dealing with domestic violence, post-abortion trauma, and other serious issues that are prevalent among women participating in Magnifica groups.

“Hispanic mothers, they have a harder time here, they’re coming from the low class... so we have to be patient, we have more single mothers in our program, we have more abortions,” she said, because abortion clinics often intentionally build facilities in lower class neighborhoods.

“I have to make sure my facilitators understand all of this, because they are not jumping into a regular reading group, we’re talking about serious problems,” she said. “And I always say to them, you might find out horrible things, but no matter what you find out, it’s always the Lord next to you, and next to them. That’s why these girls are walking into your group, so give thanks to the Lord because these girls are getting into your groups.”

Lessons for the Church

Del Toro’s ministry experiences with Hispanic Catholics offer lessons for the Church in the United States, which is increasingly made up of people of Latin American origin.

Hispanics made up about 40 percent of the Church in the United States in 2016, with especially large representation among youth and young adults: 50 percent of Catholics ages 14 to 29 are Hispanic; and 55 percent of Catholics under 14 are Hispanic. Though immigration rates from Hispanic countries have begun to slow in recent years, the percentage of Hispanic Catholics in the US is expected to continue growing during the next decade.

Del Toro is a leader with V Encuentro (Fifth Encounter) a national gathering of U.S. Hispanic leaders and ministers held in order to consult with Hispanic Catholics and respond to their pastoral needs, the next of which will be held in Texas in September.

“The culture is completely different,” Del Toro said of Hispanic/Latino culture versus white Americans.

For example, and as evidenced partly by her own success stories, “A Latin opens their heart very easily and they give themselves to the Lord right away,” she said. “They’re more affective than Americans, Americans have to think. A Latin is just like, this is what I feel, so I’m jumping, no matter if it’s right or wrong.”

There’s also a stronger cultural devotion to the faith - and particularly to the Blessed Virgin Mary - beginning in the home for many Hispanics, she said.

“You listen to your mother pray the rosary your whole entire life,” she noted. “Americans in general, they’re not very close to the rosary, but for us it’s normal to always have a rosary and pray it throughout the day your whole life.”

In fact, she said, Mary is usually the best place to begin the evangelization of Hispanics.

“Our Lady is always around us, Our Lady of Guadalupe is in every single street corner, you have her in houses, everywhere, we are very connected to her. So when you work through her, very few people will close the door to her...sometimes they reject Jesus, but if you work through Our Lady? Piece of cake.”

In her work with V Encuentro, Del Toro said she tells her groups to be aware of the different problems that Hispanic women face, like domestic abuse, increased rates of single motherhood, and abortion.

“They need help and they need big protection, because if we don’t protect these women, the next generation is going to become worse and worse, so this is the time to do something real.”

Del Toro said the two biggest mistakes she sees the Church making today, especially when it comes to evangelizing to Hispanics, are failing to be direct about sin, and not taking the time to develop real relationships with people. When Catholics stop talking about what “the Church” should be doing and instead focus on what they can be doing as Christians, it’s much more effective, Del Toro said.

“You think that a program will change them? No, they need to feel the love, and if you don’t feel the love from someone else in there, you’re not going to change,” she said. “Another thing is stop to talk about the Church only. Why not give the example? Why not live the life you’re supposed to live? Because to talk about the Church is very easy. But follow the Gospel? That’s the hard part.”

“Listen to them first of all,” she said, to understand them and their lives. Only after you listen can you talk to them about God.

“Give them a good example. Hug them. Ask them - what can we do for you? How can I help you? How often do we ask that?” she said.  “We don’t want to have the trouble, we don’t want to have one more thing because (we’re) so busy, so we forget very easy things that are the basic things. Simple things like that would make a huge change in the community.”

That’s what Del Toro has been striving to do during her many years in ministry.

“The people that know me know that what I do I do through my heart, otherwise I could be doing different things for a lot of money,” she said. “But my (goal) is heaven and I want to be a saint, I really want to be a saint. So I just relax, letting God do whatever he wants to do with me.”

But she’s called in a special favor from heaven. She needs Mary’s protection.

“I told Mary - don’t leave me alone my entire life!”

 

Why hundreds are still drawn to the powerful legacy of the 'Rosary Priest'

Easton, Massachusetts, Jun 24, 2018 / 06:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly three decades after his death, Father Patrick Peyton still receives fan mail.

People from all over the world submit letters and electronic notes - intercessory prayer requests and stories of prayers answered in the name of Father Peyton - to the desk of Father David S. Marcham.

Marcham, who is now vice postulator for the Cause of Venerable Patrick Peyton and director of the Father Peyton Guild, first discovered the many prayer requests and gratefully triumphant notes during a chance visit to Holy Cross Ministries in Easton, Massachusetts. The prayerful notes inspired him to join the effort in spreading Fr. Peyton’s message by advancing his cause for sainthood.

“Fr. Peyton has the ability through his message and through his intercession to work on the level of our individual families, but also to work worldwide,” he said.

Father Patrick Peyton (1909-1992) was a dynamic advocate for family prayer and a trailblazer in radio broadcast and televised evangelization.

Like many Irish families, Peyton grew up praying the Rosary. His devotion to Mary deepened when he was healed of advanced tuberculosis with no explanation, shortly after his ordination. He credited the intercession of the Blessed Mother for his recovery, and became committed to spreading the importance of prayer through Mary.

In doing so, he caught the attention of Hollywood.

After World War Two ended, Peyton began a radio show to pray in thanksgiving for peace. His show reached wide audiences with his passionate calls for family prayer, and it featured prominent public figures, from President Harry Truman to New York’s Archbishop Spellman. A strong proponent of the Rosary and a firm believer in its power, Peyton had each guest pray the Rosary for the world to hear.

However, executives of the radio station wanted to explore the idea of bringing in Hollywood stars. Peyton ambitiously called Bing Crosby, who had just seen his big break in Going My Way--a movie about a priest who created a church choir to help a group of boys reorient their lives.

“After Father Peyton explained what he was doing, [Bing Crosby] said, ‘Of course I’ll be on the program!’” said Father Willy Raymond, the current Holy Cross Family Ministries president and previous director of Family Theater Productions, both of which Father Peyton began.

“With [Crosby’s] name on it, it really got the nation’s attention,” Raymond added.

Family Theater Productions continues Peyton’s legacy in the film industry, providing a community for Hollywood Catholics and producing spiritual content. One of its most recent efforts, The Dating Project, was recently released in April, and the program Catholic Central provides short, informative films geared toward young people.

Along with promoting prayer in his shows, Peyton held “Rosary Rallies” around the world - from Peru to the Philippines to Papua New Guinea - earning him the title that he still bears to this day of “The Rosary Priest.”

Last December, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of Fr. Peyton, declaring him “Venerable.” The priest’s information is currently under review for further advancement toward canonization.

An event celebrating the declaration of Fr. Peyton as Venerable drew a crowd of around 700 people to Holy Cross Family Ministries in North Easton, Massachusetts earlier this month.

Attendees - families, notable Catholic figures and international dignitaries alike - took part in the festivities. Auxiliary Bishop Arthur Colgan of Lima, Peru, celebrated the June 10 Mass. Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, was also present, along with Shane Cahill, Irish Consul General in the U.S., and Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y.

Included in the celebration were three key parts of Father’ Peyton’s faith-based daily routine: a Eucharistic Procession, a celebration of the Mass and the praying of the Rosary.

“Every day, no matter how busy he was, Father Peyton prayed the Rosary many times during the day… he always made a holy hour with Eucharistic Adoration as a part of his day,” said Fr. Marcham. “And he also, every day, celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”

Everyone present at the June 10 prayer event was given a blessed Rosary, and many took Rosaries for their loved ones who could not make it, said Marcham. Each family was also provided with a Rosary prayer kit.

Marcham was inspired by the turnout at the event. He said many attendees found it “spiritually uplifting to hear that Father Peyton’s cause is progressing… they also found it was spiritually uplifting to be part of it.”

The sweeping commonality that “every one of us comes from a family” - along with the late priest’s zeal for holiness - is what still draws people to Fr. Peyton, said Marcham.

Many, he said, speak of the “realization of how something is going on in every person’s family - even the ones that look like they’re perfect from the outside.”

“Father Peyton offers a way for us to have God’s grace help us to reconcile, to heal, to move through challenges.”

Like the families of the post-World War era, modern families face difficulties, said Marcham.

“We basically have schedules and structures of life today that have family members going in all different directions,” he said, adding that many modern families struggle with high divorce rates, opioid addictions, misuse or overuse of technology and a demanding corporate culture.

“Making sure that God is welcome in the home is absolutely essential to give meaning and purpose to people’s lives,” Fr. Raymond added. When a family is rooted in prayer, he said, children “grow up knowing and trusting that God is real, that he’s present, that he loves them, and he’s going to be with them through thick and thin.”

Both priests recalled Fr. Peyton’s popular saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”

“We need the biggest promoter of this message we could get, and he’s the one,” Father Marcham said.

Marcham and his colleagues’ mission is “not to glorify Father Peyton,” he clarified. “It’s to make people aware of him and his holiness and his efficacy of his intercessory prayer. And really, the purpose of all this is to draw all of us and invite everyone to join...in this to grow closer to our Blessed Mother and our Lord.”

“I’m encouraging everyone and inviting everyone to join me.”

The Preparer of The Way

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#BigFertility: New documentary aims to shed light on the surrogacy industry

San Francisco, Calif., Jun 23, 2018 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- Becoming a surrogate mother seemed like a natural option for Kelly Martinez, who enjoyed helping people and liked being pregnant.

Just 20 years old, she thought working with big surrogacy agencies was a safe way for her to help couples have a family.

Instead, however, she says she was instructed to lie to the French consulate about being the biological mother of the children she was carrying. She was told to sign legal papers in French, which she did not understand. She did not receive a copy of the documents, and no translator was offered to her.

Ultimately, Martinez says she was manipulated, lied to, locked in a legal battle, and left with a stack of medical bills. She now sees the surrogacy industry differently – as an industry centered on profit.

Martinez’s story is being turned into a feature-length documentary called #BigFertility, a film produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, which aims to show the dangers behind the big money involved in the surrogacy industry.

“Kelly’s story is particularly unique because of the international dimension and how the industry exploited her over and over again,” said Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.

“Her story shows how she was lied to, lied about, financially ruined and almost lost her life,” Lahl told CNA.

Martinez became a three-time surrogate mother. She became a surrogate for a French couple and a Spanish couple, despite the practice being illegal in all forms in the couples’ home countries. She also became a surrogate mother for a couple in the U.S. Throughout the documentary, Martinez talks about the medical risks, exploitation, and abuse she says she faced during the surrogacy process.

“I have now had my eyes opened to the fact that this is really about money, not about the children,” Martinez says in the trailer for #BigFertility.

The international scope of Martinez’s experiences, Lahl said, points to the overarching concerns that surrogacy around the globe presents. Martinez has now become an advocate against “big surrogacy,” and has spoken at various events around the world about her experience, including to members of Spanish Parliament and the United Nations.

Surrogacy has long been a controversial topic because of its connection with exploitation, abuses, and ethical concerns. The #BigFertility documentary is hoping to bring more of these concerns to light through Kelly’s story and experiences.

“Pushing back on the false narrative that surrogacy can be regulated and prevent problems, #BigFertility will show that the industry cares most about profits and least about the women used as paid breeders,” Lahl said.

The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network is also running a kickstarter page to finalize and market the documentary, which will be launched this fall.

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Ex-Vatican diplomat found guilty of distributing child porn

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican court found Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former staff member at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, guilty of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Judge Giuseppe Della Torre, head of the tribunal of the Vatican City State, delivered the verdict June 23, and sentenced Msgr. Capella to five years in prison and fined him 5,000 euro ($5,833).

The Vatican press office said he would serve his sentence in a Vatican cell located in the building of the Gendarme Corps of Vatican City State, as the Vatican police force is formally known.

It is presumed to be the same cell prepared for Paolo Gabriele, the former papal butler who leaked reserved papal correspondence in 2012, and Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda, former secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, who was found guilty of leaking confidential documents about the Vatican's financial reform in 2016.

Both Gabriele and Vallejo Balda were pardoned after serving a few months of their sentences.

Msgr. Capella was accused of having and exchanging with others "a large quantity" of child pornography; the quantity is such that the charges are considered "aggravated" by the Vatican City court.

Prior to verdict, the judges presiding over the case listened to Vatican prosecutor Roberto Zanotti who recommended the court sentence the Italian prelate to five years and nine months and fine him 10,000 euro ($11,668).

Roberto Borgogno, Msgr. Capella's lawyer, pleaded with the court to give the monsignor a reduced sentence and referred to his client's crimes as "a problem" that required intense therapy and not a heavy sentence.

Before adjourning in the morning, Msgr. Capella addressed the court, saying that the "mistakes I have made are evident as well as this period of weakness. I am sorry that my weakness has hurt the church, the Holy See and my diocese. I also hurt my family and I am repentant."

Referring to his possession and distribution of child pornography as "a bump in the road in my priestly life," the former Vatican diplomat said that he wants to continue receiving "psychological support."

The Vatican press office said a decision regarding Msgr. Capella by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith would be made at a later date. The congregation's investigations of clerical sexual abuse cases is separate from how those cases are handled by criminal courts.

The U.S. State Department notified the Holy See Aug. 21 of Msgr. Capella's possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images. The 50-year-old Italian monsignor had been working in Washington just over a year when he was recalled to the Vatican.

On Sept. 28, police in Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Msgr. Capella on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

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